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Calif. ‘assault weapons’ ban ruled unconstitutional

Examples of some semi-automatic rifles. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
October 20, 2023

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ruled Thursday that a 33-year-old California law banning “assault weapons” is unconstitutional.

Benitez, who previously ruled against the state of California’s “assault weapons” ban, noted that the state’s actions to prohibit the sale of semiautomatic guns represent a violation of the Second Amendment, according to The New York Post.

The federal judge also pointed to the 2022 Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which explained gun control policies must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

“Like the Bowie Knife which was commonly carried by citizens and soldiers in the 1800s, ‘assault weapons’ are dangerous, but useful,” Benitez wrote. “But unlike the Bowie Knife, the United States Supreme Court has said, ‘[t]here is a long tradition of widespread lawful gun ownership by private individuals in this country.’ Americans have an individual right to keep and bear firearms.”

In his ruling, Benitez claimed that California’s 1989 law prohibiting its citizens from owning semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 results in “the extreme policy that a handful of criminals can dictate the conduct and infringe on the freedom of law-abiding citizens.”

READ MORE: Supreme Court sides with Biden on gun control on ‘ghost guns,’ overruling lower court

“California’s answer to the criminal misuse of a few is to disarm its many good residents,” Benitez added. “That knee-jerk reaction is constitutionally untenable, just as it was 250 years ago.”

Despite ruling that California’s “Assault Weapons Control Act” was unconstitutional, Benitez granted California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s request for a stay of Thursday’s decision until the attorney general can present an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit. As a result, “assault weapons” restrictions in the state currently remain in effect.

Following Thursday’s ruling, Bonta filed a notice of appeal, claiming that Benitez’s ruling was “dangerous and misguided.”

“Weapons of war have no place on California’s streets,” Bonta said in a press release. “This has been state law in California for decades, and we will continue to fight for our authority to keep our citizens safe from firearms that cause mass casualties.”

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.